December 20th, 2004


Always Time

In 1968, Jethro Tull's first album, This Was, included a track called "Christmas Song". I heard it on the radio on the way back from the store today. It's a cynical song, contrasting happy partygoers with the homeless and needy. The last lines are: "And if I've just messed up your thoughtless pleasures/ Remember, this is just a Christmas song." It's a good song, although there are others I prefer in the category of "unhappy/bitter/twisted Christmas songs".

But it put me in mind of a Tull song from twenty-one years later, on Rock Island. It's titled "Another Christmas Song", and it is a contemplative and uplifting piece, alternating between lines about an old man surrounded by his children, and lines to the listener. "Everyone is from somewhere/ Even if you've never been there./ So take a minute to remember the part of you/ That might be the old man calling me."

But my favorite line is a wry reference and an echo of their first Christmas song: "How many wars you fighting out there, this winter's morning?/ Maybe it's always time for another Christmas song."

It's not a recantation of the earlier song. But it's a commentary, an observation on it: maybe there's always time to make amends, to offer solace instead of bitterness, to be joyful rather than cynical. To be glad for what you have, instead of fighting about what you don't.

I'm glad that Ian Anderson wrote "Christmas Song", because it says something important and worth saying. But "Another Christmas Song" pleases me more, with its simple poignancy, its joy, and its gentle reminder: even though some things are worth fighting for, that doesn't mean we need to fight all of the time.

Maybe it's always time for another Christmas song.